In his article ''Senior execs earn pay increase'' (Forum, December 22, p3), Markus Mannheim asks ''Is it 'fair' that the head of the federal Treasury has a pay package worth $653,000, when the average chief executive of a top-100 company took home $4.7 million last year? After all, the top government jobs are at least as demanding.''
Salary recipients fall into two broad classes, with one of these classes, which we might call the ''paymasters'', deciding both its own pay, and that of the other class. For the sake of precision and accuracy, let's call this other class ''the mugs''.
Up to the 1970s, federal politicians used to cause a public stink every so often by debating and (always) approving generous increases in their own pay. When too many people saw this as too much of a rort, the job was passed to an ''independent'' tribunal, whose members themselves were directly or indirectly parliamentary appointees, and whose own salaries had to be commensurate with what they could get in comparative jobs elsewhere. So parliamentary salary packages (pay + super + perks) many multiples above average weekly earnings were set by people who could only stand to gain the higher they went.
Meanwhile, out in the private sector, the executive layer managed to cut itself free from shareholder control, while the blue-collar crowd were kept in check by a standing offer to move their jobs offshore. An executive package obscene this year can be doubly so next year. If A's package is tied to B's, B's is in turn tied to C's, and C can pay himself what he likes, A's automatically heads for stratospheric obscenity too. And in the final wash-up, it's all paid for by the mugs.
Ian MacDougall, Farrer
Don't ignore God
It is incredible Labor members of the ACT Legislative Assembly will not support an official church service at the start of the February sitting (''Row over move for church service to open Assembly year'' December 22, p2). Katy Gallagher says Labor MLAs wanted to maintain the secular approach of the ACT Assembly. I think the real reason is Labor members are afraid of offending the minority who make atheism their religion and want to deny the reality of religious faith of any tradition in the Australian community. No one has to attend any such service but they should respect the convictions of the majority of Australians for whom belief in God is important. Our constitution reminds us we all rely on the blessings of God.
Robert Willson, Deakin
The drop in the numbers of those calling themselves Christians and Katy Gallagher's decision not to have a Christian church service when the ACT Legislative Assembly resumes in 2013 casts a depressing pall over the ever-diminishing meaning of Christmas.
If it were not for the celebration of Christ's birth there would be no gathering of family and loved ones, no well-meaning gifts of love, no renewing of friendships - and no tripping off to the coast on the longest of long weekends in the Lucky Country's generous annual holiday calendar.
However, you can bet your sweet patootie that whether Christ remains in this period or not, our growing humanist lobby will continue to insist religiously on the ''season's holidays''.
And well may Ms Gallagher take the high secular road in the Parliament, because everyone knows that all Christian civility and decent behaviour has long ago disappeared from a House of Shame.
John Bell, Lyneham
The real apocalypse
Now we are finally through the Mayan 2012 end-of-the-world rubbish, can we please get our attention back to the environmental-climate apocalypse we are causing, and living through, right now?
Unless we stop burning fossil fuels which are overburdening our planet's capacity to absorb greenhouse gases and unless we start repairing that capacity by revegetating all the land currently wasted raising livestock, or crops to feed livestock, life as we know it on Earth cannot survive.
Frankie Seymour, Queanbeyan, NSW
Slow lanes win tick
Congratulations to the National Capital Authority, and CEO Gary Rake, for their enlightened proposal to reduce speed limits (and hopefully travel speeds) on roads in the Parliamentary Triangle and to ensure the path network is complete (''Cars to take back seat in Triangle'', December 22, p1). A vehicle travelling at 40km/h causes significantly less damage to a person it strikes than if it is moving at higher speeds and will not make any significant difference to travel times as the distances within the Triangle are short and there are many intersections. Let's make the Parliamentary Triangle, and all the town and district centres in Canberra, into people friendly places for the betterment of us all.
John Widdup, Hackett
Ian Douglas (Letters, December 16) asked whether there was provision for conscripts to be exempted from service in Vietnam as the basis of conscientious objection.
The matter to which Mr Douglas refers might have been the decision of then prime minister John Gorton to offer exemption from service in Vietnam to those conscripts who had completed basic training and were being allocated to a unit. This would have occurred about the end of 1970 when Gorton (a World War II RAAF veteran who was twice forced to crash-land Hurricane and Kittyhawk fighters in the south-west Pacific) withdrew 8RAR Battalion from Vietnam and did not replace it.
Incidentally, the part-time alternative to national service was popular with conscripted Commonwealth public servants because paid military leave was given to cover the national service obligation of a 14-17 day annual camp. In addition, tax-free army pay (according to the conscript's rank) was also paid.
Paul Rogers, Aranda
PM's head start
All politicians make silly promises. Labor's vow of a surplus so far out from its predicted realisation was a nonsense but it was at least based on known data. John Howard's vow never to introduce a GST was a promise he knew he would never keep. The common theme is accountability; Gillard will take the state of the economy to the election, just as Howard was prepared to gamble his broken promise.
I predict Gillard will succeed as Howard did because Labor's economic management has been strong, despite what Tony, Joe, Alan, Ray and Andrew would have us all believe. Low unemployment, interest rates and AAA ratings are no reasons to change government, especially now that the carbon price and the dethroning of Kevin are no longer issues.
Mark Slater, Melba
At a town hall meeting at the Broncos Leagues Club in 2010, the Prime Minister was asked a direct question by David Speers: ''If you don't get the budget back into surplus in three years, what happens? Do you sack the Treasurer, do you take personal responsibility?'' Her only answer was ''It's happening, David. Failure is not an option'' (http://www.alp.org.au/federal-government/news/transcript--julia-gillard,-town-hall-meeting,-bron/).
When someone says that failure is not an option, they mean that the consequences would be so dire that failure cannot even be contemplated; success must be achieved at any cost. So important was achieving a surplus that the government promised to do so on more than 200 occasions. So now that failure is inevitable, the Prime Minister owes us some answers. Will she sack the Treasurer? Will she take personal responsibility for a failure so monumental that only two years ago she was unable to bring herself to entertain the remotest possibility?
D. Zivkovic, Aranda
Gun case is flawed
I found it odd that the only ''people'' Clive Williams listed in his article (''Security in schools the best weapon'', December 21, p13) were blacks from Washington DC.
He spoke of all the weapons he has played with and the difficulty the Republicans would have with the buyback scheme.
Yet how many black people had anything to with the making of all the weapons he played with, how many blacks are in the Republican Party (maybe 10), and how many blacks take these weapons he talks of and go to schools or movie theatres and shoot people non-discriminately? None. Why is it then the black people from Washington DC are the only ones he mentions?
These people wouldn't even be involved in the buyback scheme as the weapons they used were pistols, not the guns he talked of. If you took out his racist views about blacks and Washington DC the article might make sense. I think he needs to get his racist views out of his article about the buyback scheme orThe Canberra Times should do a better job of reading the article before they print it.
Tad Dufelmeier, Gordon
The most disturbing aspect of Clive Williams's article is that he is probably right in both his assessment of the realpolitik in the USA on gun control and his conclusion that ''the more likely long-term outcome is better protection for schools and students, including permanent armed guards''.
Given that this occurs, it will be another example of that nation's moral decay. It used to be said that the US illustrates both the best and the worst of the world but, in recent years, particularly since 2001, any redeeming balance has been tipped towards the worst.
Warwick Williams, Nicholls
Just how sick is American society, when the response of the powerful National Rifle Association to the Newtown massacre is to call for armed guards to be stationed in all US schools? The NRA vice-president's statement that ''The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun'' is revolting, abhorrent and uncaring.
To believe that the answer to gun violence is more guns doesn't address the cause, which is the widespread availability of guns in the first place. I shake my head in disbelief.
Don Sephton, Greenway
To the point
NOISE IN MY EARS
I align emphatically with Maureen Blackmore (Letters, December 19) and thank her for stating the bleeding obvious regarding high sound levels common in Canberra's cinemas, and in voice-overs in TV commercials. We might be old but we're not necessarily deaf. But the complained-of practices may soon push us there.
Frank Duggan, Chisholm
EAT MORE AND BE MERRY
So far retailers are reporting an increase in Christmas sales of 4 per cent, mostly food items. It seems we have gone from ''No room in the inn'' to ''No room in the fridge''.
David Hicks, Holt
IT'S TOUGH BEING A BLOKE
How much more can blokes be blamed for? According to Jane Ussher, a professor of women's health psychology at the University of Western Sydney (''New mood on PMS distress: it's a myth'', December 22, p6), it now includes female PMS. Such a claim may give some credence to the belief that for many blokes the only change from day to day is measured by the depth.
John Sandilands, Garran
LUXURY'S NEW MEANING
Oh dear, is that new level of luxury accompanying the Lautrec exhibition really styled Lautrec's Tea Salon? Why not Salon du The? And as for ''high tea'' I thought that was the province of the Hyatt and the nursery.
But enough carping; I'm looking forward to visiting the Toulouse Lautrec exhibition and the gift shop, where I hope to find reproductions of La Goulue's pantalons, the lack of which contributed to her popularity, according to the curator in conversation with Ian Warden last week.
Tom Muir, Erindale
AND THAT'S A FACT
I can assure H. Ronald (Letters, December 18) that I have no compulsory Christmas reading required to catch up on the facts of the AWU affair. I am well aware of the facts. He on the other hand is so readily sucked in by the now discredited claims of the Coalition and blithely accepts them as fact.
T. Marks, Holt
About Mayan predictions (''Mayan magic'', Times2, December 21, p4-5), though the Bible says ''Surely the Lord God will do nothing but He reveals His secret unto His servants the prophet'' (Amos chapter 3, verse 7), Jesus said of the world's end, ''Heaven and earth shall pass away … but of that day and hour knows no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only'' (Matthew 24, 35-37). So we must be wary of doomsday predictions.
Evelyn Bean, Ainslie